What is dental tourism and why it matters.
As a dental practice owner, you are always in search of ways to expand your practice and grow your client base. One of the many options to do so is to try to attract international patients through dental tourism.
The concept of dental tourism can seem complicated at first, as you have to attract patients across borders and deal with different insurance. However, after reading the below, you should have no issues understanding dental tourism or what you need to do if you are going to attempt growth through attracting dental tourism clientele.
What is dental tourism and how does it work?
Dental tourism is when someone travels to another country to have dental work completed or other dental services. People tend to opt for dental tourism for one of two main reasons: they either want a treatment that they can’t get or is hard to get at home, or to take advantage of lower-cost dental care.
According to a Washington Post article, dental tourism combined with medical tourism increased 29% between 2008 and 2018. This figure specifically looks at American citizens who traveled abroad.
Americans are likely international tourists due to cost factors. In fact, that same article cited that Americans traveling abroad for related procedures usually result in 18% savings – even considering the combined travel and dental work costs.
Many people also opt for dental tourism as an excuse to travel abroad and save a bit of money on their dental care while doing so.
What is the best country for dental tourism? Major trends influencing dental tourism.
The top dental tourism destinations depend on numerous factors. Many of them are appealing for their low-cost dental treatment offerings. Others are appealing because of the combination of low-cost dental care with great scenery. Yet others stand out for offering rare or expensive treatments and procedures that are hard to find other places.
If your American patients ask about dental tourism, you should advise them to be careful and do their research. The CDC suggests that patients always research medications, standards, infection control, and potential complications.
Of the various countries around the world, some are more popular medical tourism destinations than others. The following are the top destinations.
Visiting Colombia for care can save up to 70% on treatment costs and give patients access to some of South America’s top hospitals.
Dental tourists in the Dominican Republic love the climate and ability to get a relaxing vacation and treatment at the same time. This country specializes in dental implants and cosmetic dentistry.
Among European countries, Hungary is one of the most popular places for dental tourism. Having pioneered the concept, it may even be the most popular country for this industry. Austrians have traveled for years to Hungary for dental treatment. With low-cost airlines, other Europeans have also drawn to this destination. Expect to pay about a third of what you would in the U.S.
Procedures in India typically cost about 70% less than in the U.S. and can be up to 90% less. One of the strongest benefits is the high rate of English speakers.
Mexico is particularly popular for American dental tourists because it is close and affordable. You can save about 50 to 60% and can drive there. Most importantly, it is close to the U.S., so you save time on traveling.
Panama attracts dental tourists with costs that are about half of those in the U.S. and a high rate of English-speaking dentists. There are also minimal wait times and plenty of flights. The caveat is that the best dental clinics are in Panama City.
Thailand is the most popular Southeast Asian destination for dental tourism thanks to its gorgeous beaches. The prices are up to 85% less than those in the U.S. with most people saving about 60%. Bangkok is the most popular city for dental tourism in the country.
Turkey is another popular European location for dental tourism. It is particularly popular for people from other European countries and the UAE.
Ukraine is incredibly popular for dental tourists from around the world. Dental implants average just $540, compared to $4,000 in the U.S.
What you need to know when expecting patients from other countries – the individual pieces of dental tourism.
The ADA has an official statement on dental tourism, but it mainly focuses on American dentists who treat patients abroad. The biggest takeaway is that dentists have an obligation to provide quality care. This includes clearly describing the patient’s oral health to them, providing records, and making reasonable arrangements in case of emergencies.
The biggest difference when treating international patients instead of Americans will be their insurance. It is unlikely that international patients will have insurance that applies to American procedures. This typically means that you will be asking the patients to pay for procedures entirely out of pocket.
When international patients do have insurance, dentists should ensure they give patients all of the documentation their insurance policy needs. Some international insurance may reimburse patients after the procedure. This may require you to include specific information on invoices, or a patient may ask you to write a letter to their insurance company outlining why the procedure was necessary.
The Quality of Care
Remember that no matter where your patient is from, you are required to deliver the same high quality of care.
The other major concern for practices who treat dental tourists is translation and communication. If your patient does not speak English and you do not speak their language, you may be legally required to provide translation services. This might be required if your practice is regulated by Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. It also applies to some situations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is also in your best interest to hire a translator if your patient does not. This will ensure you understand their problems and they understand the procedure and aftercare instructions.
How to enhance my dental practice to gain more patients through dental tourism – dental tourism with vs without marketing.
To help your practice attract more international patients, you will want to make sure that your dental office has some important features.
Unique and industry-leading procedures and treatments.
Few dental tourists will come to the United States to save money on treatment, as the treatments in the U.S. are known for being expensive. Instead, you want to appeal to patients by offering the latest treatments with the best technology and a high level of experience.
In your advertising for international patients, highlight the unique procedures you use or how you always use the latest technology.
Highlight Your Quality
You should also highlight your high quality of care. Mention your team’s degrees and certifications. Point out how these degrees and certifications are stricter than those in other countries.
Communicating with your patients is always a concern, especially when they are from another country. You will likely want to find some great communication software that offers numerous ways to reach patients, such as Podium.
Reach Patients Where They Look
Pay attention to where international patients are looking for American dentists and post your content there. For example, if they look at Facebook groups for suggestions, ensure you have a strong Facebook page. If they look at Twitter, ensure you have an active Twitter page. You should also make sure to have a strong website.
Focus on Reviews
Focus on helping your American patients who want to engage in dental tourism.
When you think of dental tourism for your dental practice, you likely first think of international patients coming to you. However, you should also acknowledge that some of your patients may consider going internationally to save money on treatment.
If this is the case, you should always encourage them to do their due diligence. Make sure they know the pros and cons of the medical tourism. If your patients see that you are cooperating with them, they are more likely to return to you for future procedures and care.
You can also come up with options for your patients who want to go travel due to treatment costs. For example, make sure your practice offers payment plans or other financing options.
If one of your patients asks you about medical tourism, be honest with them about the varying standards in other countries. Make sure they understand the importance of quality care and the risks of traveling. Just be sure to frame it in a way that shows you care about patients – and not that you are trying to make a sale.
Conclusion – Why you should care about dental tourism.
Encouraging dental tourism gives your dental practice the chance to expand your reach and bring in more patients. As a bonus, most dental tourists want more expensive procedures, offering a greater patient value than regular cleanings. You need to ensure you are always compliant with local and international laws when providing treatment. You should also try to be as accommodating of international patients as possible.